Monday, June 25, 2012


I was resistant to the film version of The Hunger Games when it first came out, earlier this year. I hadn't even read the book, yet, but I didn't want to indulge the concept of teenagers murdering each other, even in fictional form. Even so, I knew I would give in to this most recent book-to-movie fad immediately if I just gave it a chance, judging by the comments I had read on facebook.

And hooked I was, when I read the first book cover to cover during my vacation.

I appreciated the symbolism of the lethal competition, especially in the main character's rebellion against government control. So many graphic, vivid, and even shocking scenes described in the book, scenes that I couldn't stop thinking about.

When I returned from vacation I found myself replaying the gruesome attacks in my mind, while jogging, including the venom-induced death by Tracker Jacker mutant wasps. The deadly insects seemed to be a corporal representation of the slings and arrows we endure in life, emotional and otherwise.

While jogging, another favorite fairytale death came to mind: the iocane powder scene from The Princess Bride. I thought about how the hero, Wesley, masquerading as the Dread Pirate Roberts, had spent some time slowly building up an immunity to iocane powder.

I told BFF Kathy that maybe we are able to build up an equivalent immunity of the emotional iocane powder in our lives. Whatever upsets us, whatever our own version of Tracker Jacker wasps are that we feel attacked by, maybe we need to embrace it. Maybe we can absorb the pain and venom of some situations, and process it in order to survive it, become stronger.

I don't want to hurt other people, but neither do I want to be hurt. I would not want to kill competitors in something as severe as the "Hunger Games," but neither would I want to be killed.

On an emotional level, instead of deliberately hurting others, even in self defense, can't I just build up enough strength and immunity to be able to withstand minor attacks? Given a choice, I would rather not, of course.

But we all know that we don't always have a choice in these matters, in our own individual lives. So I aim to make constant effort, to continually improve the odds in my favor.

"I have spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder."
~Wesley, The Princess Bride

Friday, June 22, 2012


It's been a good year for shows, so far.

After singing in the geek chorus for Geeks! The Musical, I got to be part of Inland Valley Repertory Theatre's production of Hairspray. I didn't get the part I had auditioned for, Corny Collins, the television host. But later, I was asked to fill in for the role of Male Authority Figure, a role that covers the bit parts of school principal, prison guard, and Mr. Pinky, the flamboyant dress shop owner.

The role also included Mr. Spritzer, the president of the Spritzer Hairspray company, who is in cahoots with the villainous Velma. Boy, did I have a good time! Once again, I felt lucky that things worked out the way that they did. Most of my performing experience has been singing and dancing, so I value the opportunity to do any non-singing, non-dancing parts.

Mr. Spritzer turned out to my favorite character. He ended up being a prissy, uptight, mousey, and nervous conservative, the way he came out of me. At first, all I could hear in my head was Droopy's voice (that nasally, sad sack cartoon dog) in the way that I vocalized the company president. Spritzer's posture was perpetually hunched over in the way I "felt" him, physically, constantly wringing his hands in worry, and always wrinkling his nose, as if he smelt something distasteful. He was also very jumpy, startled by any sudden dance movements of the teenagers-on-TV, or flinching at any musical outbursts during the songs.

I was a little disappointed not to be in any of the dance numbers, age-inappropriate as it may be for me, for this particular show of nostalgia. But I was happy just to be in rehearsals, watching the younger cast members dance . . . dancers half my age or younger, many of them young enough to be my daughters or sons.

My mother attended a performance with my Aunt Pat. She said, more than once, "I can't believe I'm old enough to have a son playing older characters on stage!"

Yep. I'm just glad that there are age-appropriate parts for me to audition for, still. I'm grateful for this production of Hairspray. Each and every cast member was amazingly talented. The production and directing team was on top of their game. I was impressed with how efficient and organized they were. And we all bonded so quickly, in a supportive atmosphere of mutual respect and admiration.

I'm sorry I missed the chance to be part of their production last year - Chicago! - but I'm grateful to get my foot in the door with them this year, and to have the chance to make a good impression.

I hope I did.

It's been a good year for shows. I was just cast in an upcoming production of Miss Saigon, as part of the Vietnamese ensemble. This is a show I have always wanted to do, and I continue to be grateful for performing opportunities, for dreams come true.

I can cross a couple more wishes off of my bucket list.

The photo above is of my new friends Jamie, as Velma Von Tussle, and Cesare, as Corny Collins, in Inland Valley Repertory Theatre's production of Hairspray. The one on the left with the squinty-eyed sourpuss face is yours truly. Photo credit: James Isaac Creative

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mallorca, Baby!

♪♪ Vacation, all I ever wanted . . . vacation - had to get away! ♫

It was a week of sleeping in, a week of overeating and underexcercising. It was a week of doing nothing except swimming and laying out by the pool during the day, and talking around the dinner table late into the night. There were a couple of day trips, but mostly, it was a week of catching up and just enjoying each other's company.

It was the second reunion with the dancers from my first cruise ship contract. It was also an anniversary of sorts. It has been twenty years since we were all first hired for Princess Cruises; two decades since we had first met each other in Los Angeles for rehearsals.

The women all look as young and fit as they did at the last reunion a few years ago. They could literally fit into their show costumes, still. It was the boys who had put on the weight, I must confess.

Susanna, originally from England, is currently living on the island of Mallorca with her partner and their son. Located near the coast of Spain, we all agreed that it would be a fun and affordable destination for our get together. Susanna found a marvelous rental home with ten bedrooms, and more importantly, right next to the beach! (pictures to follow in a future post).

Rather than going out every night for dinner, we order a truckload of groceries and mostly cook and clean together, morning, noon, and night, during our reunion week (I mostly help clean - mostly - since I don't actually cook). We have always worked well together and played well together, this little group of ours. In our first contract, we had organized cruise ship activities during the day and danced in stage shows at night. And we discovered that we genuinely enjoy each other's company.

Staying in for most meals made it easier to feed the six children that came to Mallorca with their "mums" (as the English say). The kids, ranging in ages 3 to 11, were content to divide their time between the backyard pool, the pool table indoors, and the Wii video games. I enjoyed watching them play a new video game called "Skylanders," complete with collectible, electronic-interactive figures.

There's not much to report about our week on the island. It was not an exciting trip, which is exactly what I wanted in a get-away excursion. We took the kids to a local pool park, and went on several water slides. Incredibly, they were anxious to get back to the pool at the villa (as they called it). "Look around you. You're surrounded by pools!" one of the Mums pointed out.

I was anxious to get back to the villa to finish reading "The Hunger Games," which Dan-from-Chicago had brought. He's not from Chicago, actually, just the greater Chicago area. But that is the five syllable moniker I have been using for almost two decades, now.

I loved going to buy groceries with Susanna at the local supermarket. I heard both the local Castellano Spanish that Mallorcans speak, as well as Catalan. The latter, though musical to the ear, was all Greek to me.

I also loved the many scooters that islanders drove on the roads. In addition to the smaller sized engines, I saw many maxi-scooters similar to the Kymco scooter that I ride, as well as other brands similar to the Suzuki Burgman and Honda Reflex. As I had heard was common in Europe, I saw many more smart cars on the island than I do in Los Angeles. Mini Coopers were abundant. Hummers would have been out of place there, especially on the smaller roads.

Jo's husband, Paddy, joined us for a few days. We had met him in the past, an Englishman who has both our friendship and our admiration for his continuing career. Paddy has been performing as Amos (AKA "Mr. Cellophane") in the current West Side production of "Chicago." During our holiday (as they also say) Paddy encouraged me, more than once, to continue blogging again. He was very complimentary about my writing and posts.

So, here I am, writing about "what I did over my summer vacation." And I thank you for it, Paddy. I'm thankful for the continued support and love of such fun friendships, for more than twenty years, now.

Here's to twenty more and beyond.